By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
By Ray Cummings
By Nicholas Pell
La Argentinidad al Palo is the hugest album released this year. Not just in length110 minutesbut also in ambition. Bersuit Vergarabat, the politicized ska-metal fratboyz from Buenos Aires, are fighting for their country's soul here, and there's a lot to do. (Here insert historical details about how their single "Sr. Cobranza" got banned for calling President Menem a drug dealer, how their last record called all Argentines "Children of the Ass," how they pretend to be sloppy but they're tighter than a bullfighter's pants, etc.) So there's no time to waste, and I don't hear a single wasted moment on either of these discs.
Disc One is the one you'll be able to find on the shelves, with a big yellow sticker over the cover because the musicians have all stuffed their pants with huge dildos because "al palo" means, roughly, "getting wood." (Jesus I hope those are dildos.) The opener is a disco-rock tune wherein frontman Gustavo Cordera proclaims that fucking is better than being in love. There are at least two sensitive ballads about loneliness and a drunken Kurt Weillstyle waltz and a Dr. Buzzardy song where guitarist-vocalist Tito Verenzuela slowly goes insane. The title song first says that Argentina is the greatest country on earth, then talks honestly about all the horrible things that have happened there lately ("cinco presidentes en una semana"!). Their solution, being Bersuit, is to get back the national wood, quick-like.
To get it all, though, you have to order Disc Two, subtitled Lo Que Se Es, separately; mine arrived in a flat little cardboard sleeve, with no sticker to hide the phalli. But it's just as good as the first, probably better considering that it starts with songs called "Shit Shit Money Money" and "Porno Star." The stretch in the middle rules with an iron fist: Juan Carlos Subirá's gorgeous ballad "Hecho en Buenos Aires" has chord changes from God and heartbreaking hometown love; "Mariscal Tito" is techno-hop cumbia prog-rock with a crashing funk-metal chorus and an intricate system of disorienting backing vocals; "Y No Está Solo . . . " punches up a flamenco-ish 5/4 beat over which Cordera and Verenzuela take turns destroying the universe, gently, with beauty.
It's heroic, it's dirty-minded, it's la nueva droga para la impotenciaand I don't need a big yellow sticker to know that it trabaja muy bien. If this album can't save Argentina's soul, nothing can.